I picked up a few fantasy novels in Amazon's recent 4-for-3 sale (more gift certificates, natch :D), and the first one I'm reading is The Sellsword
. (Powell's Amazon
). the reason I got it is that I'd caught Tracy Hickman guesting on an episode of the Writing Excuses
podcast ("Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry and we're not that smart") and he mentioned it there (I think...?) and I ran across some other mention of it. At any rate, the main character of a grizzled mercenary appealed to me. It's a Dragonlance RPG tie-in, and turns out it's "Tracy Hickman Presents" rather than Tracy Hickman writes
, with Cam Banks as the author, but that's not too big a deal because while I loved the original Dragonlance novels with all the power of a teenage fangirl, I don't recall them being any great shakes prose-wise.
As far as I can gather, it all sort of fits in with a larger Dragonlance world metaplot, being a side-story, but that's unimportant and you don't need to know the greater plot to follow it. (At least so far - I'm only 70 pages in.)
It's not going to be the World's Greatest Fantasy Novel, being a standard RPG tie-in and featuring Good and Evil and only a very little in between. I'd tend to vaguely envision the primary baddie as mustache-twirling, except that she doesn't have a mustache.
Totally awesome aspect: the main character, the mercenary Vanderjack who owns a haunted sword afflicted with tetchy ghosts, is black.
Not so awesome aspect: too bad the grim mercenary on the cover isn't him
I really, really, really liked that cover until the text positively identified that Vanderjack is black - the colors are gorgeous, the character's expression and pose are great,the composition is good. But, um. From what I understand, WOTC's artists, writers, and editors are so insular that this bloody well HAS to be direct editorial/art director/marketing choice, not failing to give essential information to the artist and him jumping to conclusions. Aargh!
Other problematic issues: there's an evil albino. Of course there is. Also, the woman in the party, in an effort to get away from the standard trope of all women in RPG books being beautiful, is ugly. Really ugly. Did I mention she was ugly? Nobody - the characters and the narration included - misses a chance to point that out. Repeatedly. And oh yeah - she's ugly. In case you'd missed that. And while I'm tired of being repeatedly reminded of how ugly she is, I really hope she doesn't end up being transformed and beautiful by the end. At least she's so far competent in her job, although a bit out of her element when she's dragged along by Vanderjack. And she's cranky, but who wouldn't be when being constantly reminded she's ugly? Also, her name is Gredchen, which I keep reading as a typo of Gretchen.
The prologue, which serves to tie it in with the overall world metaplot and thus would probably mean something to me if I'd read any Dragonlance books recently, does describe a woman with caramel-colored skin and raven hair as 'exotic,' but I am digging my head in the sand and choosing to believe it's a term used by the viewpoint character in that scene.
Despite that, I'm so far enjoying it, because, honestly, it's an RPG tie-in and I don't actually expect much from them. I like the character of Vanderjack, the throwaway humor is mildly funny, the bad guys are appropriately posturing and Eeeeevil, and I'm rather enjoying my visit back to teenage fangirl Dragonlance nostalgia.